UK meat processor Tulip has opened a new pork processing facility to meet business from key customer Waitrose and with an eye on export markets.

The site in Spalding in Lincolnshire will be part of Tulip subsidiary Dalehead Foods. It will have the capacity to process 21,000 pigs a week and is running at about 14,000 pigs a day, Dalehead financial controller Helen Gilchrist told just-food.

"Our dedicated customer is Waitrose and they are projecting growing pork sales, so we are making sure that we are in-line with them and whenever they want to expand we are able to meet that need," Gilchrist said.

In the "near future" the group should expand production levels at the facility to about 19,000 pigs a day, she added.

While much of this growth will come through Waitrose, the company is also eyeing higher exports. "Within Tulip we are trying to increase exports," Gilchrist revealed. "We've only got three abittours in Tulip, so it gives us space to expand."

The Dalehead facility already has permission to export products to China, as well as various European markets such as Germany and France. It also plans to apply for permission to export pork products to the US.

Work is still under way for the refrigeration unit at the facility. When this is completed, in an estimated 2-3 weeks, the group plans to apply for a license to export products to the US. It is likely that it will take another six months before approval is granted, Gilchrist predicted.

Tulip is owned by Denmark-based meat co-op Danish Crown.